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Car reviews - BMW - 2 Series - Convertible

Our Opinion

We like
Brilliant handling, lively engines, fantastic taut body, quiet and comfortable ride
Room for improvement
Expensive option list, poor rear visibility

BMW logo5 Mar 2015

By NEIL DOWLING

BALANCE is an over-used word and its pure meaning is often lost in muddy numbers.

BMW doesn’t fudge the numbers. Its new 2 Series convertible has a 50:50 weight distribution that is perfect balance.

You don’t even have to look at the numbers. Power the convertible through the twisting and occasionally rutted bitumen ribbons that trail from South Australia’s Victor Harbour to its Adelaide capital and you feel the balance in your hips and through the precision of the steering.

The route chosen for the launch this week of the 1 Series replacement is a hard test for a car that ostensibly will spend its life cosseted in suburbia.

The 2 Series is the third four-seater open-top from BMW, styled and engineered in a similar vein to the bigger 4 Series and 6 Series.

But compared with its larger, more elegant and extravagant siblings, the 2 Series is so much more nimble, more city-friendly and so practical for a single owner or a couple. Even a couple with two children.

It replicates much of the exterior style of the 4 Series and there’s an obvious link to its predecessor. But in the flesh, the new convertible is broader, more purposeful and has lost its child-like qualities.

The cloth roof folds in 20 seconds and now comes in three colours, one a denim-like anthracite hue that sparkles with a hint of silver thread.

Then there’s the boat-tail design of the flat rear deck when the cloth-top is hydraulically hidden away.

The instrument panel and dashboard are identical to the coupe, continuing its simplicity and austere quality to enhance the easy driving nature of the 2 Series models.

Unlike the Mercedes-Benz SLK, the BMW and its rival the Audi A3 convertible are capable of hauling four adults. Rear seat legroom is dependent on the height of the front occupants, varying from suiting a child to being suitable for adults needing only a short ride.

Interior décor is simple but the option list details numerous trim varieties.

The base 220i has a man-made, leather-look upholstery finish but buyers opting for the Luxury pack get real leather for a bargain $1000 extra.

Two drivetrains were tested at the Adelaide launch with the third and most desirable M235i not available in Australia until next month.

Interestingly, it wasn’t missed. And it wasn’t even the healthy 180kW/350Nm of the 228i that drew the most praise.

At $54,900 plus on-road costs, the entry 220i is a delightfully well balanced – that word again – and economical version that doesn’t feel down much on power compared with the 228i.

It gets the same eight-speed automatic and beautifully tied down suspension, sitting on 17-inch wheels that have a little bit more rubber flex to return a more supple ride.

There’s 25 kilograms less to haul around too, a pittance in comparison to the 220i automatic’s 1585kg mass but it all adds up through the hurried corners.

Maximum torque of 270Nm is in the bag at 1250rpm, sitting flat until 4500rpm, while the 135kW lives from 5000rpm to 6250rpm, just under the tachometer’s redline.

And it’s a responsive and free-revving 2.0-litre as well, pulling hard through the middle of the rev range and reacting quickly to the manual flicks of the gearbox’s steering column-mounted paddle-shifters.

While it’s a fun engine, and the handling is simply spot on so the bends feel ironed out and so easily dismissive, the ride is the biggest surprise.

The combination of run-flat tyres and a sports-oriented suspension tune in a low-profile car have all the ingredients of a firm, vaguely uncomfortable ride.

It’s not so. The 2 Series convertible shrugs off the big bumps, even mid corner. It prefers the smooth bitumen, of course, where the tyres remain quiet and the suspension complies with the undulations.

Yes, it’s good. BMW look at it as being an affordable convertible with panache.

It certainly has style but even $54,900 and the necessary on-road costs doesn’t make it inexpensive.

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